Fin Del Mundo in Ushuaia, Tierra Del Fuego

I have finally made it to the end of the world in Argentina, the most southerly city in the world – Ushuaia! A flight from El Calafate brought us here yesterday without any problems until we tried to find a hostel that had beds. The first two hostels were full, and at the Yakush hostel they kindly offered to phone around for us. Every call returned a “no” except for two that later phoned back with availablility. One was under construction and the other far out of town. We chose the latter, “Los Comaranes”, which actually turned out to be quite nice, although the dormitory rooms are a little cramped. We also made a booking for the next few nights in Yakush Hostel too, where we are now situated. Mental note to anyone travelling down here, even at the end of the season as it is now – reserve a bed!!

Ushuaia reminds me a the photos I have seen of Greenland in the summer. Nissen huts are abound and the place has a feel that during the winter months it can get pretty rough and damn cold. Apparently the wind is the worst factor here, and after seeing a maritime map in the hostel of the wrecks around here and Cape Horn, it is not hard to imagine how bad it can get. Being from the UK makes you used to changeable weather but here it changes really quickly. From bright sunshine in the morning to absolutely tipping it down the next minute from nowhere is not uncommon. Mind you that is what the taxi driver explained to me in Spanish, so I might be slightly out on the translation!!

View the photos of Ushuaia, Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina (a.k.a Fin Del Mundo).

There are two trips Tim and I are interested in while we are here. The first is a boat trip around the islands and to see and stand with penguins. The other is a 9 hour hike up to the glacier which you then can hike on with crampons and ice axes! Might have to just pick one them, based on budget and time but hopefully can do them both.

Forgot to mention something funny I saw in El Calafate. There are a great deal of stray dogs in the town, but there was one that classically chased the cars. After being there for a couple of days we realised that he only chased French cars. Peugout, Renault and Citroen were his only targets. As to why, I had no idea, but the thought of a French car hating dog amused me highly!

Also we had a funny incident based on Tim’s now famous “internationally recognised gestures”. After the shower gel incident in La Paz (the woman understood Tim’s gesticulation for shower gel, but it turned out she spoke English anyway!), Tim came up with a new one after talking about icing sugar (don’t ask me why), which was based on his Mum’s method of sprinkling icing sugar onto cakes. It looks like someone banging the palms of their hands together at 90 degrees to each other, but amusingly was pointed out to him that is a vulgar sign for, well, “fucking”, for want of a better word. His face was quite a picture when he realised how many times he had used it recently while demonstrating his vast hand signal dictionary compared to his Spanish knowledge!!

Anyway, Tim has given me hours of amusement and is a great travel companion even though he snores like a trooper, which of course he denies! Travelling together for quite a while has got us both to know our individual little habits and gestures for getting out of minor scrapes. With just 2 weeks left before I fly home, I feel it will be weird not to have my shithead card playing, drinking and dossing around buddy around. I hope he survives without the benefit of my dodgy Spanish, however, I think he plans to do a course in Buenos Aires to prepare himself for those two months alone. It’s been a great laugh and we have met and travelled with some great people along the way. October seems so long ago now, and I am surprised that I have managed to do so much these six months.

People say you will never be the same after you have spent some serious time travelling around. I think I wouldn’t have been able to do longer than six months to be honest. I have noticed that the bad hour at the beginning have now turned into a bad couple of days, when I long to be home and see family and friends, eat bloody vegetables and be around people that understand how to queue in line!

For what it is worth, I think that this trip has changed me. For what direction I am not sure, but I guess family and friends will happily tell me if there is an improvement or not! What has been confirmed to me is that the way the world works, and how it is pretty harsh, people suffer and starve. I knew it before, and now have seen it with my own eyes, but whereas before I thought the world could be changed, now I’m not so sure. Of course people can stand in the way of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, charities can do what they can, but maybe this world was designed to be this way. Who knows.

As my Argentinian friend Elisa would say in her mocking of the English accent – “who cares”?

Photos from Los Glaciares Parc National – Patagonia

I have just posted the photos from my two trips out to the Patagonian National Park called Los Glaciares Parc National. Based out of El Calafate the trips took us to see and experience the amazing sights of Perito Moreno and Glacier Upsala, plus a few more thrown in on the way! Anyway the photos can be found here:

My particular favourites are those where the Perito Moreno drops part of the glacier into Lago Argentina to create new icebergs, and I don’t just mean small bits of ice. These ice blocks are 10 storeys high and must weight the weight of several lorries together!

Patagonia – Perito Moreno and Upsala Glaciers

The last few days have been taken up with trips to the Los Glaciares Parc National, accessed from El Calafate in Patagonia. This experience has been amazing. I have never seen anything like this in my life. There are two main trips you can do, the first being a trip to see the Perito Moreno Glacier and  the second, a boat tour to see the Upsala Glacier and various others close by. Without doubt the Perito Moreno Glacier is the most famous, being the one that is most accessible, and having been able to split the Lago Argentina in two a couple of years ago before giving way in spectacular fashion to the weight of the water.

Wednesday was taken up with a day to see the Perito Moreno Glacier. The bus takes you to the  park from El Calafate. This takes about an hour and a half, which should be improved in the near  future as the government is paving the road from the current gravel road that goes part way to the park. I was interested to stop at the $500 US dollar per night hotel called Hotel Los Nostros, since a friend of Kerstin’s is the manageress there. However, the tour guide said it was not able to stop there, but I hopefully will meet up with her friend tomorrow before I head to Ushuaia.

The view of the Perito Moreno Glacier when you first see it is breathtaking. It is truly a beauty of nature. You are able to take a boat trip to get closer to the glacier (as close as 200 metres) and or view it from the balconies above the glacier. This has to be one of the highlights of Patagonia! I  hope to put some of the photos up, but internet down here is not great and expensive too. The glacier itself towers above you from the boat, large walls of ice moving forward at up to 2 metres per day. The ice reaches as high as a ten storey building and is constantly creaking and moaning as it scrapes down the mountain. Every so often you are treated to a real sensory treat as large blocks of the glacier crash down into the water creating large waves that trigger off other icebergs at the same time. These icebergs float down the Lago Argentina and sometimes drift as far as El Calafate. The colour of the ice is amazing. Through the snow being compacted into ice, and the ice being compacted over time, the bubbles of water in the ice are completely removed. The ice which is the oldest, and with the least  air content turns a deep deep  blue colour – water at its most purest and a truly magnificent sight to behold!

View the photos of the Perito Moreno Glacier, Patagonia, Argentina.

Our next day we took a boat trip back in the national park, through the Lago Argentina to see various other glaciers. Our main attraction was to be the Upsala Glacier. It is an immense size, covering an area into which you would be able to fit Buenos Aires. It is over 37 miles long and 4 miles wide, but for me was not as impressive as the Perito Moreno, with its towering walls of ice.

We also  saw the Spegazzini  Glacier, which also was quite stunning.

The culmination of a brilliant day was watching the most gigantic iceberg break up, which must have been the size of a football pitch and as high as four story building. A small part that fell off was enough to alter the weight balance of the iceberg just enough to make it completely turn over since the volume of ice above the water outweighed that which was below. In a most amazing series of rolls and thrashing around it broke up and roared thunderously to the delight of the tourists!

View the photos of the Upsala Glacier, Patagonia, Argentina.

The boat tour took most of the day and we returned shattered, not from any exercise really but  from the sheer volume of sensory inputs for one day! If you come to Argentina, in fact South America, do not miss this!!

Well, next for me I guess is Ushuaia, the most southerly city in the world, and often referred to as the “End of the World”. The bus takes just 14 hours, which is nothing in Argentine terms. From there I hope to head up to Puerto Madryn or Esquel to visit at least one of the Welsh communities before heading north to Buenos Aires.

South to El Calafate

The journey south by bus, well to be honest looked a bit of a nightmare from Bariloche to El Calafate. No direct road that wasn’t gravel and a bus duration of well over 30 hours. The decision was made after I chatted over breakfast to another Brit from “up north”, called Alan. He looked like he knew what he was talking about and was the kind of guy that carried around an extra 100 litre rucksack for “his climbing gear”, which contained amongst other things a rather cool set of ice axes. very cool!

Alan advised me that there was a plane to El Calafate the next day and was only £5 pounds GBP more than the bus. Oh, and it took just 3 and a half hours! It wasn’t direct though and first went to Esquel, courtesy of an Argentinian air force Fokker F-28, and then on to El Calafate on the the smallest plane I have ever been on, a Twin Otter twin prop plane that has been possibly the most scary flight I have been on! Anyway, we made it here safe, including Tim and I, Alan and three Ozzies, plus a Brasilian called Adrianna. Lucy decided to travel to Puerto Madryn first before heading south later.

Arriving in El Calafate was stepping back in time. The place has a real frontier town feel to it and looks like it is still in the process of being built. El Calafate is really just a jumping off point to the Glaciers of Perito Moreno and Upsala, plus Mount Fitz Roy and El Chalten. My decision is primarily to visit the Perito Moreno glacier, a must since I saw pictures of Kerstin’s and see what I want to do after that. The debate is whether with only two weeks left I get down as far as Ushuaia on Tierra Del Fuego, or start heading north back up to Puerto Madryn. Yet again the scale of distance is a little daunting to a Brit. The bus to Ushuaia is another day’s travel, back up to Puerto Madryn much the same, if not a little more. I could get a bus to Ushuaia and then fly back up, but that is more money on flights which I don’t really want to shell out for at this point. Anyway, I’m sure it will be as always a last minute decision and spur of the moment. I’ll keep “ya’s-al” posted!!

Tim will probably head back up to Buenos Aires with me for what he calls “the Motorcycle Diaries goodbye” (see Diarios de Motocicleta as explanation, or buy the The Motorcycle Diaries DVD!!). As the skinny asthmatic dreamer, plus getting on a plane, I have been nominated Ernesto “Che” Guevarra. Tim, as the rather more jovial and “heavy-set” gets the role of Alberto Granado. I’m not quite sure what Tim plans to say but from his explanation earlier, goes something along the very artistic lines of “goodbye you old bastard”!!

Whether I get to see Iguazu Falls is still up in the air really. It was the last major thing I wanted to visit before leaving but is another 24 hours north of Buenos Aires, meaning I’d need to go there and come back pronto. We’ll have to see, but I might have to leave it for the next trip down here in a couple of years time!